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Our strange redeemers!

My dear favoured Nigerian politician, come, let us reason together. Let us for now brainstorm on the pitiable plights of the common man: the beggar in the street, the orphan in the orphanage, the homeless under the flyover bridge. Let us for once, wear the tattered shoes of the grey-haired peasant farmer still scrounging the hard-red soil to harvest a hope and the childless woman whose neck was crushed yesterday by the firewood fetched for tomorrow’s market place. They are all Nigerians, too.

Let us for a moment feel the pains of the poorly paid civil servant who is handed peanut that is devoured daily by the inflation monster. Let us think together about those hunted by the pangs of penury; from whom much is taxed and taken but to whom little or nothing is ever returned!

Yes, Mister Billionaire politician, let us analyse the travails of the common man; the voiceless victims of your gargantuan greed, to whom you return for votes during the electioneering campaigns with fanciful promises. One is talking about the flotsam and the jetsam of our society- the very souls of our earth whose wishes have withered in the heat of your unceasing graft; whose dreams have been aborted by the hunting hands of Greed.

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Yes, you and I are scions of this wretched breed. We, the so called elites, with our so called Western education; whose neon lights have blinded to the common man’s common woes by Greed – that seemingly intractable virus gnawing at the very fabric of our fragile unity. One is talking about Greed, the master magician changing with the chameleonic candour from agbada to khaki and back again. Greed, doing the dance of the demons that makes angels to cry and the hearts of our patriots to bleed!

Yes. Greed – the thief on the throne. The arbiter that becomes the usurper, whose green fire after every feast of fraud purifies neither our farms nor our fields. And the strange redeemers garbed in gabardines of growing graft, in a land so richly endowed and blessed by God, yet, so brazenly and callously impoverished by our masquerading messiahs.

My dear reader, what you have just read is a snippet of the introduction to my collection of poems titled: ‘Petals and Thorns-Truth and Blood’ as compiled in 1994. They were written over a period of 18 years, from the Second Republic right to the tail end of military dictatorship. Worthy of note is that many of them were published in the defunct Nigerian Herald, Ilorin, Kwara State under my poetry column (Poem of the Week) on Saturdays.

The million-naira question is this: Is the quality of life of the average Nigerian, going by the Human Development Index(HDI) based on access to nutritious and affordable food, decent shelter, quality education and healthcare delivery any better as today in the 21st Century Nigeria, than it was when these poems were written decades ago? The answer is a patently obvious ‘no!’

Sadly, the common connecting theme and thread is the greed of not a few of our political leaders, and the deafening applause of mediocrity by their hero- worshippers. Truth has been painted in colours of cash and kind, and it has become increasingly difficult to tell the difference between right and wrong and between our heroes and our foes.

Similarly, in the cheating chess game of sapping survival the ogre of corruption dons many colours. This recurring ugly decimal in our yet-to-be-balanced socio-political equation, more than six decades of our political independence is a clear indictment on the ruling class.

Similarly, according to a research paper titled: ‘Of Politics and Politicians In Nigeria: The Human and Social Governance Consequences’ published in January 2020 as a Project: by Okechukwu Dominic Nwankwo’s Lab (Psychology and Human Behaviour) et al the findings were saddening.

It stated that: ‘The human/social governance consequences were: Social polarisation, disappointed governance, loss of confidence in electoral system, corruption, poor societal development, misguided rule of law, exponential unemployment, poor standard of living, misguided life virtue, and embarrassing Judiciary.

Proffered recommendations were improved political value system, proactive Judiciary, accountable politics/politicians, and stopping irresponsible political extravagant lifestyle.’

The pain however, is that as 2023 comes closer by the day, the internecine struggle for power for self-aggrandisement rather than the pitiable poor, clearly shows that party politics in Nigeria has been turned into a worse-case jungle scenario of the Charles Darwin principle of survival of the fittest. In fact, one can add that of the crudest, the most cunny, the heartless and of course, the rotten-rich. These are characterised by the brick-bats within both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which are having it as a Herculean task to conduct party congresses.

As it plays out in the jungle, some of our politicians act as the Cuckoo Bees which are well-known as traitorous usurpers. They can sell their souls to the devil and keep betraying their brothers to get to power. Others care little or nothing about morals and humanity. In their scheme to get the juiciest political positions come the next dispensation, they are ready to behave like the Black Mamba, the Puffer -fish, the Indian Saw-Scaled Viper or even the Cape Buffalo to silence every form of opposition. To these ruthless oppressors, the end justifies the means.

Unfortunately, these power-poaching politicians would still have willing tools amongst the ignorant and the poor members of the Nigerian society to carry out their dastardly acts. But yours truly is hereby saying that we should not allow ourselves to be used as cannon fodders only to be discarded ignominiously as wasted sponges.

Now is the time for enlightened and concerned Nigerians to raise our choral song of sanity against our common enemies of ignorance and want visited on us by the Greed of the self-appointed few. Let us say a concerted no against high costs of the nomination forms by the different political parties. That is the root cause of the high cost of running government in the country.

Similarly, let us raise our voices against the huge pay-package of political appointees. It must be drastically scaled down equivalent to the civil salary scales, in tandem with the harsh economic realities on ground. Paying billions of naira to feed the occupants of Aso rock and all other state houses across the country is inimical to the economic growth of a country currently groaning under the huge debt profile, both at the state and federal government levels.

And coming to the content of character of our future pilots, they must be people who understand the nitty-gritty of selfless leadership. They must be willing to be guided by the compass of vision, character, commitment, humility and honesty of purpose against the storms of Greed. They should be prepared for constructive criticism. As an Ebira proverb goes, ‘A leader is like a dustbin’ at which all manner of filth would be thrown. Our leaders should therefore, not mount the pedestal of political power with any ethnic or religious agenda to drag us deeper into the mud and mire of political instability, divisive tendencies worsening disunity.

We desire and indeed deserve leaders who are patriotic, passionate, and visionary about connecting Nigerians to our God-given natural endowments. They should always be driven by the national interest. We have had enough of our strange redeemers.

.Baje is Nigerian first Food Technologist in the media and author of ‘Drumbeats of Democracy’

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